It’s pretty ugly, this movement, so much so that even someone with a cast-iron case of trainwreck syndrome (hi) will want to look away. Yes, Eric quotes me, but I haven’t made a study of these people: What I’ve already run across in my regular travels on Facebook and Tumblr is more than enough. I love getting silly and (yes) occasionally childish with fandom (ahem, Tumblr) but the hatred and negativity of all this is just above and beyond. And I cut my fandom teeth flaming Star Wars authors for ‘bad’ books. I used to read Fandom Wank regularly, for fun. I moderated message boards during the prequel era. I can handle more than your standard amount of fannish negativity.
There’s nothing wrong with being sad, or even a little angry, about the Legends announcement. There’s nothing wrong with wanting that timeline to continue. But there is something wrong with letting things get quite this toxic over a bunch of novels, no matter how beloved they may be. It poisons the well.
I hope these folks are channeling something like the snotty, flaming 17-year-old I was once, and they’ll grow up and move on, with or without Star Wars. There’s little doubt in my mind that this will die down, regardless. But it’s beyond sad to see EU fandom, even if it’s just the fringes, reduced to such a sad state. We’re better than this. I hope.
I was lucky enough to see the preview screening of Star Wars Rebels in San Diego, and to sum it up: Rebels is awesome. We were asked not to spoil the premiere episode, so I’ll give my general impression and touch on a few things we already know to be in the show.
Let’s start with the book: I think it does three very smart things that were missing from the first round of canon novels.
It’s a book headlined by a popular female character. Yes, Vos is there, too, but he’s not the focus of the preview artwork: Ventress is. I hope that means this is mostly her book.
It’s written by a woman. Christie Golden wouldn’t be my first choice, but this story – which is bound to be plenty angsty – may be right in her wheelhouse.
It’s from The Clone Wars. Yes, these two characters may not originate on the show, but I’m guessing that’s where quite a few fans primarily know them from. Plus their origins – Vos in comics and Ventress the Genndy Tartakovsky Clone Wars – are now rendered as Legends, or close to it.
Many fans of the cartoon may now feel under-served with the franchises’ recent focus on the original trilogy era – something us OT fans will recall from 1999-2013. It only makes sense for LFL to give Clone Wars fans something, too: And why not novels? Many of them are older now (and/or unable to get their fix elsewhere) than they were when the earlier TCW novels failed to catch on. It’s good to see those characters will get their stories continued tangibly somehow – and if Episode VII has taught us anything, it’s never say never.
These three things, in any combination, were mostly missing from the first round of canon novels. So I’m glad to see a book like this, even if it’s not one I have much personal interest in. And given the heavy hints in the panel, I doubt this is the last we’ve seen, at least in regards to point #3.
One thing that’s curious, though – what about the Del Rey contract? Between Sword of the Jedi and Kemp’s duology we know they had at least 5 books left, maybe 6 if you count that rumor about Matt Stover finishing Imperial Commando – and this would be #5. But then, there’s this tweet: “We gave away 4,500 free books at #SDCC Just you wait for @SW_Celebration next year! To say we’re excited is an understatement.” I doubt Del Rey would be at Celebration if they were on the verge of losing their license…
But, speaking of new contracts… Marvel. Yes, old EU fans are less than thrilled with ‘another’ set of just after A New Hope stuff, but please remember: We are not the only audience here. And the old stuff, including Marvel’s old stuff, is Legends. The slate is clean, and Marvel has to build up a new audience for Star Wars comics. This is only the beginning – we’ll likely see them range further as things are established.
In particular, I like the direction the Leia comic is going, which is most certainly not something we saw done in the old EU. I hope it’s followed by another female-centric mini – though they’ll doubtless have to create one. A female smuggler, maybe? Or what about a new spin on one of their own less-goofy Legends characters like Shira Brie/Lumiya, Story Group permitting? Hell, how about a pre-Bespin Lando?
There’s still a lot that Marvel can do here, and I firmly believe that the era matters far less than the execution. Let’s give them a shot before writing this off as same-old, same-old.
Alas, I’m not all that familiar with the Marvel folks to speculate much on what these specific creators will bring to Star Wars, but reaction from those who are familiar with them seemed fairly positive.
And for the love of Stan Lee: Marvel, you better get Phil Noto to do at LEAST the covers of an Episode VII comic. Did you see his Luke Skywalker portrait? If you can make Leia look like she’s 6 feet tall, you can give us Noto’s Luke, okay? Good. I’m glad we had this talk.
I never, ever, ever wanted to be a social justice blogger. I still don’t. But apparently it’s happened, so let’s talk a bit about Star Wars, diversity and feminism, shall we?
I have been very lucky in that I did most of my fandom growing up in spaces that were heavily female, from the early ship-war days to Club Jade to the fanfic community. That’s not to say jerks don’t happen in such spaces – the Star Ladies invented Attack Pattern Clinique back in the days of AOL chat rooms for a reason – but for the most part I ‘grew up’ in fandom areas where women and their contributions were unquestioned, where the idea that Star Wars needs more women was simply a given.
When I came back into general fandom via the StarWars.com forums, it was from a position of authority. Not big authority – moderator of a message board – but there was still a certain amount of respect expected and received. I’m sure having nicknames that tend to read masculine doesn’t hurt, either.
Still, in general fandom I have, for the most part, had a good experience in dealing with male fans. It wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t see a lot of random outright hostility due to my gender, either. Until I, oddly enough, started writing more extensively about feminist concepts. Curious, no? (Not at all, actually.) But I personally haven’t received any rape threats for criticizing Star Wars, as recently happened in comic fandom, so we have that going for us, I guess.
A few days late on this, perhaps, but this has been quite a slog, hasn’t it? In any case, we have our cast – or at least the better part of it.
In short, there are a lot of interesting possibilities here for everyone, and while many of us may have qualms about the gender diversity of the overall group, you certainly can’t say any of them are boring.
Today’s casting announcement was indeed very welcome. Finally, we have a confirmed cast, or at least the biggest part of one. We have a group of familiar faces and new actors who come with glowing recommendations, and they’re not all white guys. (Just mostly.)
We have Carrie Fisher, of course. But of the seven new cast members there’s only one other woman joining her. Granted, Daisy Ridley could very well be playing Episode VII’s main character. She could be the axis the entire film revolves around. Or, she may not be. We don’t know, and they’re probably not going to tell us any time soon. And there could be other women in the cast but again: We’re not seeing them today. In any case, this is the core cast. The leads will be drawn out of this group – or so we’re led to assume.
We’ve had two trilogies with exactly one woman each taking the lead. We had the prequel trilogy, where, finally, there were enough women that they actually talked to each other sometimes. When their scenes weren’t cut, anyway. (Sorry, Padme’s mom and sister. Sorry, Mon Mothma.) Still, Padme talked to her handmaidens, to Shmi Skywalker, to Queen Jamillia, to Beru Whitesun. And remember: The Bechdal test is (again) the bare minimum, not any sort of ultimate measure.
Outside of the movies, we’ve embraced the addition of characters like Mara Jade, Jaina Solo, Ahsoka Tano and even newcomers Hera Syndulla and Sabine Wren, whose show hasn’t even aired yet. Two women in the Rebels cast? We were enthusiastic, even if there are still some bumps in the road.
“Be patient,” they say.
They don’t seem to realize that we have been patient. We’re here. We’re fans. We’re ready. We’ve been patient for 30 years. It’s just that now, there’s enough of us visible that you can’t ignore us when we speak up.
Here’s a real question for you: Why do we keep asking? It’s not because we enjoy this outrage, I’ll tell you that much. It’s because of decades of being ignored, disrespected, and of our contributions being constantly downplayed, our concerns brushed to the side. And if we don’t ask, if we go back to being “patient?” That’ll just give them more reason to go back to the status quo, no matter how many Katnisses there are.
I’m sorry this casting announcement, this moment we’ve all been waiting nearly two years for, has been clouded by complaints. But I’m not sorry for speaking up as to why. I just wish we didn’t have to.
Naturally, I’m pretty happy with the decision. That doesn’t mean I’m not a little apprehensive about the new films, but the ‘salad bar’ mentality is something I’ve been preaching for a long time, and I think it’s for the best that Lucasfilm has the ability to pick, choose, or just entirely ignore elements of the existing EU.
But that doesn’t mean the stories themselves are dead. If you like a book or a character or a series, than they still count to you. And that is what’s important, or should be: The stories. The people. Not their canon status. Lucasfilm can dictate that, but they can’t tell you what to enjoy.
If this took you by surprise, it’s okay to mourn, but remember: This isn’t a guarantee that you won’t see your faves – or some version of your faves – ever again. They may show up in Rebels, or the new canon books, or even Episode VII or one of the standalone films. They may show up in ways you don’t expect, but Lucasfilm, like their stepsister Marvel, knows their own products. They know what they have, and I don’t think they’re going to forget it. As they mentioned in the original release, they’re using EU elements in Rebels, and I doubt that’ll be the last.
But me? Yes, I’m excited. Of course the new trilogy could still be awful, but if it is, it won’t be because they’re not following the EU. All this latest development means is that the new films are not beholden to storylines and character developments made while being half blind. The many stories that are, themselves, as imperfect as anything else in this franchise is imperfect.
But there are a lot of reactions to this out there, and head below the cut for my favorites.
I’ve been a Star Wars fan since I was barely 13, and became an Expanded Universe fan only days later. My entire experience of falling in love with Star Wars was prompted and is because of the Expanded Universe; I ‘first’ saw the movies on VHS over Christmas break in 1991. And we wouldn’t have even had those copies in the house if not for the release of Heir to the Empire in the spring of that year.
I owe my entire fandom to Heir to the Empire and the Thrawn trilogy. The Expanded Universe, which was pretty much all there was back in those days, formed the nucleus of my fandom. They hooked me, and they hooked me well enough that I sit here, 22 years later, running a fairly popular blog devoted to the franchise, with those same worn copies of Heir, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command not four feet away.
I love the Expanded Universe. It’s a weird kind of love that you get with this sort of fandom; I kept with it through some of the absolute worst fiction I have ever read, and many books that could I barely bring myself to call mediocre and, yes, even those rare gems that make it all worth it.
To be honest, I hadn’t planned to write more about Wookieepedia’s page on breasts. I’m already on record as disapproving, twice. Outrage fatigue happens even to the outraged, and quite honestly I don’t have the temperament or patience to continue to explain Feminism 101 to this fandom.
But the page and one of the responses ended up on Tumblr – one of those areas of fandom where you do actually see female majorities in many circles – and I remembered why it’s important that we keep speaking out.